A group of conscripts are called up into the infantry during WWII. At first they appear a hopeless bunch but their sergeant and Lieutenant have faith in them and mould them into a good team. When they go into action in N. Africa they realise what it's all about. - IMDB Description
June 5, 2013
Aka The Immortal Battalion
Pvt. Ted Brewer: Only one good man ever got into Parliament.
Pvt. Herbert Davenport: Oh really? Who?
Pvt. Ted Brewer: Bleedin' Guy Fawkes.
A group of conscripts are called up into the infantry during WWII. At first they appear a hopeless bunch but their sergeant and Lieutenant have faith in them and mould them into a good team. When they go into action in N. Africa they realise what it's all about.
~Written by Steve Crook at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Two Cities Films Production.
John Sutro, producer
Norman Walker, producer
Stanley Haynes, associate producer
Herbert Smith, executive producer in charge of production (uncredited)
Director: Carol Reed
Eric Ambler (story)
Carol Reed (screenplay)
Peter Ustinov (screenplay)
These three writers, all enlisted men in the British Army Film Unit, had previously worked on the 1943 training film The New Lot, which was produced for the Army Kinematograph Service. The Way Ahead was an expanded remake of their earlier film, this time intended for a commercial audience. The two films featured some of the same actors, including John Laurie, Raymond Huntley and Peter Ustinov.
Private Ustinov was, at the time of this film, Major David Niven's "batman," or aide de camp, in the British Army's film Unit. They were friends before the war and by making Ustinov his batman, Officer Niven could ensure that they would be working together on film projects. Niven explained in his autobiography that there was no military way that he, as a Major, and Ustinov, who was only a Private, could associate, except as an officer and his subordinate, hence their strange "act". Ustinov appeared again with Niven in Death on the Nile (1978).
Film Locations: Denham Studios, Denham, Buckinghamshire, England, UK (studio)
Pirbright Army Camp, Pirbright, Surrey, England, UK (exteriors).
~Compiled from files at Wikipedia and IMDB.
David Niven as Lieutenant Jim Perry
Stanley Holloway as Private Ted Brewer
James Donald as Private Evans Lloyd
John Laurie as Private Luke
Leslie Dwyer as Private Sid Beck
Hugh Burden as Private Bill Parsons
Jimmy Hanley as Private Geoffrey Stainer (as Jimmie Hanley)
William Hartnell as Sergeant Ned Fletcher (as Billy Hartnell)
Reginald Tate as The Training Company Commanding Officer
Leo Genn as Captain Edwards
John Ruddock as Old Chelsea Soldier
A. Bromley Davenport as Old Chelsea Soldier (as Bromley Davenport)
Renée Asherson as Marjorie Gillingham (as Renee Asherson)
Mary Jerrold as Mrs. Gillingham
Tessie O'Shea as Herself
Raymond Lovell as Mr. Jackson
A.E. Matthews as Colonel Walmsley
Jack Watling as Sergeant Buster
Peter Ustinov as Rispoli, cafe owner
Lloyd Pearson as Sam Thyrtle
Raymond Huntley as Private Herbert Davenport
Penelope Dudley-Ward as Mrs. Perry (as Penelope Ward)
Esma Cannon as Mrs. Ted Brewer
Eileen Erskine as Mrs. Bill Parsons
Grace Arnold as Mrs. Ned Fletcher
Film trivia courtesy of IMDB:
David Niven reports in his autobiography that the film was shown for many years for training at Sandhurst (the British Army's officer training school and Niven's alma mater).
The film was still used for officer training in Australia as recently as 1983.
At the time the movie was made, David Niven, who plays a lieutenant, was actually a British Army Major serving on operations in WWII.
This started life as an Army training and instructional film, "The New Lot," written by Peter Ustinov and Eric Ambler and starring some of the cast that finished up in "The Way Ahead" (Niven came in later). The training film had upset some Army top brass with its frankness and was suppressed. It has recently re-emerged thanks to a copy found in an archive.
This movie is an expanded remake of the Army Kinematograph Service film The New Lot.
First cinema film of Renée Asherson.
This film's opening prologue is a quote of the definition of the word Army from 'Enyclopedia Brittanica'. It states: "AN ARMY - A considerable body of men, armed, organised and disciplined, to act together for purposes of warfare."
This film's writers Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov and director Carol Reed all previously worked together and made the training film, The New Lot. The following actors John Laurie, Raymond Huntley and Peter Ustinov appeared in both The New Lot and this movie.
In the United States of America, this film was edited down and shortened and re-titled as "The Immortal Battalion", while an edited shorter version was also made for American television.
In the United Kingdom, this movie was released on the famous World War II date of D-Day i.e. the 6th of June, 1944.
This film stars David Niven who himself was a Major in the British Army.
Apparently, Wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill asked star David Niven about the possibility of making a film which would pay homage to the British Army the way In Which We Serve had paid homage to the British Navy. Niven then contacted director Carol Reed with the proposal of expanding their earlier training film, The New Lot.
First film screen debut of English actor Trevor Howard in an uncredited role as an Officer on a Ship.
The book, The Film Business - A History of British Cinema 1896-1972, by Ernest Betts, states this film "...was originally made as a War Office instructional film under the title 'The New Lot', but was later developed into a full-length commercial feature at the suggestion of Filippo Del Giudice."
According to the book 'A History of the Cinema from its origins to 1970' by Eric Rhode, "Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov were commissioned to write a script that would encourage enlistment in the infantry and were obliged to show . . . skepticism give way to admiration."
Peter Ustinov, who both wrote the film and played the Anglophobic café owner Rispoli, was only a Private, so to explain his presence on set to visiting Senior Officers, Ustinov was said to be Major David Niven's 'batman' (officer's servant, a kind of military valet). Ustinov was served with the (British)Army Film Unit for most of the war.
Other films on IA with David Niven as of this date:
There Goes The Bride (Niven's film debut), 1932
Eternally Yours, 1939
The First of the Few aka Spitfire (Leslie Howard's last film), 1942
The Lady Says No, 1952